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West Virginia Football: Grading All 22 Starters from the Win over Baylor

Alex SimsCorrespondent IIIDecember 22, 2014

West Virginia Football: Grading All 22 Starters from the Win over Baylor

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    Many of the West Virginia Mountaineers should be thrilled by their Week 5 performance against Baylor. Others, well, they'll have to go back to the drawing board this week.

    After the game, members of the media were given an anthology of broken records, as the Mountaineers and Bears engaged in an act of utter disrespect on history itself on Saturday.

    On offense, WVU exploded for 70 points and an astounding 807 total yards, demolishing its previous single-game record of 655 set earlier this season against Marshall.

    The Baylor Bears went for 700 yards of their own in the game, breaking the previous record of 558 set by Maryland back in 1993. Baylor's 63 points also broke Penn State's record of 62, which dated back to 1973.

    Here are the grades from the WVU's record-setting and record-allowing performance against Baylor.

Geno Smith, Quarterback: A+

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    Head coach Dana Holgorsen said it best during his postgame press conference (via WVUSports.com).

    He was asked how close Geno Smith was to the level he could be at, to which he responded, "I don't know how you can improve on that."

    Smith went 45-for-51 for 656 yards and eight touchdowns, breaking his own single-game school records for pass completions, yards and touchdowns.

    Most importantly, he didn't throw a single interception. For his efforts, he was named Walter Camp Offensive Player of the Week (via WVUSports.com).

    On the year, he now has a 84.3 percent completion rating, placing him at No. 1 in the nation and a full five percentage points ahead of the second most accurate passer in the NCAA's FBS division.

    He has also averaged 432 yards per game, has a passer rating of 208.37 and 20 touchdowns, all of which lead the nation.

    He's on pace for 5,184 yards in WVU's 12 regular season games, along with a 60:0 touchdown to interception ratio.

    Right now, nobody is even close to him in the race for the Heisman Trophy.

Andrew Buie, Running Back, B+

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    Andrew Buie yet again earned the start at running back for West Virginia, as usual starter Shawne Alston was held out of action, still suffering from a thigh bruise sustained in Week 3 against James Madison. 

    Buie however, was quite effective in his stead.

    He averaged only 3.3 yards per carry, which is certainly a point for improvement, however he netted 82 yards and two touchdowns.

    Both of those scores came in short-yardage situations near the goal line, when Alston would have normally been favored.

    He was stuffed on a few runs, but there were also a few instances in which he scampered through a hole for a nice gain on inside runs.

    Simply judging by the eye test, it looks like Buie is improving game-to-game and becoming more accustomed to being the featured back.

    However, he is still best suited as a change of pace runner, using is speed as an alternate to Alston's power.

    Last year's leading rusher Dustin Garrison has also continued to earn some work, taking three carries for 28 yards. 

    He'll continue to regain health and confidence and once he, Alston and Buie are all healthy and available, WVU will have a very dangerous lot of running backs.

Stedman Bailey, Wide Receiver, A+

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    I imagine that the Baylor defensive backs must cry when they think of what Stedman Bailey did to them on Saturday.

    The junior was brutal and merciless to the poor, helpless members of the Baylor secondary.

    He torched the Bears for 303 yards and five touchdowns on 13 receptions.

    He connected with fellow Miramar, Fla., native Geno Smith for touchdowns from two, 20, 39, 47 and 87 yards.

    Bailey is on pace for 1,905 yards and 30 touchdowns this season.

    Can you say "Biletnikoff?"

Tavon Austin, Inside Receiver: A+

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    While Bailey was embarrassing the Baylor secondary, Austin was doing exactly the same thing.

    His numbers, slightly less impressive than Bailey's, were still astronomical. 

    Austin had 14 receptions for 215 yards and two touchdowns from 45 and 52 yards.

    He had one of the most impressive plays of the day, taking a pass from Smith off a hot-route slant, shedding one tackler and going the distance.

    He and Bailey now have more yards and touchdowns than any other receiving tandem in the country.

    Bailey and Austin rank No. 2 and 3 respectively in per-game receiving yardage and are No. 1 and 2 in receiving touchdowns.

    Can you say "Biletnikoff runner-up?"

Wide Receiver, J.D. Woods: A

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    If you're J.D. Woods, why wouldn't you join in on the fun?

    Austin and Bailey were off having career games, so Woods decided to do the same.

    The senior went for 114 yards and a touchdown off 13 receptions, along with a 16-yard rush off an end-around, nearly equaling his career totals entering the game.

    He was also at the epicenter of the avalanche of WVU passing touchdowns, when he caught Smith's first touchdown strike from seven yards out in the first quarter.

    Woods also capped off the game with an incredible one-handed snag in the fourth quarter that prevented Smith's first interception of the season, essentially put an end to Baylor's comeback hopes and showed the nation that the Mountaineers have more than just two talented receivers.

Jordan Thompson, Inside Receiver: B+

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    The numbers put up by the receiver they call "Squirt" were far from gaudy.

    Thompson had just two receptions for 18 yards.

    Regardless, that was probably the true freshman's best performance of the season, as he had his season-long reception of 14 yards.

    However, the best part of his performance was his blocking.

    For a little guy (he's listed at 5'7", 164 pounds), the kid can really block, which was evident this weekend.

    He was seen numerous times up in the face of the bigger Baylor defensive backs, allowing Austin and Bailey to streak up the field.

    He's under the radar as a receiving threat at this point in the season, which could change as he continues to work hard.

Offensive Line: A-

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    Starters

    LT: Quinton Spain

    LG: Josh Jenkins

    C: Joe Madsen*

    RG: Jeff Braun

    RT: Pat Eger

    *Madsen named WVU Offensive Champion against Baylor

     

    Last week the performance of the West Virginia offensive line was offensive, in the alternate definition of the word. They allowed two sacks and numerous hits on Smith, while paving the way for just one yard per carry from the WVU run game.

    This week, they were much improved. Smith was still sacked once, but overall he had much more time to throw.

    There were numerous long passes in which Smith had all day to wait for Bailey to find open space.

    As a team, West Virginia ran for 4.1 yards per carry, and once Alston returns, expect that number to increase even further.

    The line wasn't perfect, but they were much improved from last week, and if they can continue to protect Smith like they did against Baylor, WVU will be very tough to stop on offense.

Defensive Line: A

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    Starters

    DE: Will Clarke*

    NT: Shaq Rowell

    DT: Jorge Wright

    *Clarke named WVU Defensive Champion against Baylor

     

    Baylor may have had a record-setting day through the air, but it wasn't the fault of the West Virginia defensive line. Clarke and the rest of the WVU pass rush had a solid day pressuring Baylor QB Nick Florence, netting three sacks and numerous hurries.

    WVU was also able to keep Baylor out of it's tempo on quite a few occasions, and if it weren't for a few big plays and blown coverages, this game wouldn't have been close.

    The Mountaineers were able to contain Baylor pretty well on the ground, as the Bears averaged just 2.6 yards per carry and 119 rushing yards.

    Baylor ended with 47 pass attempts and 45 rushes—essentially an equal spread, but only 17 percent of its yards came on the ground.

Linebackers: B+

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    Starters

    Buck: Josh Francis

    Sam: Isaiah Bruce

    Will: Doug Rigg

    Star: Terence Garvin

     

    What was a huge question mark going into the season is turning into one of the strengths of this defense.

    Francis, Bruce, Rigg and Garvin have all shown off their playmaking ability in this defense, with guys like Tyler Anderson and Shaq Petteway also heavily in the mix.

    This group contributed not only to the pressuring of Florence, but the halting of the Baylor rushing attack.

    The four starters combined for 34 tackles, four tackles for a loss and three sacks. Bruce again led the way with 13 of his own.

    Garvin had two of the sacks, but the former safety had a very rough day in pass coverage, which was a pretty common theme on Saturday. He was also flagged for a less-than-intelligent roughing the passer penalty on Florence.

Secondary: F

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    Starters

    FCB: Pat Miller

    FS: Karl Joseph

    BS: Darwin Cook

    BCB: Brodrick Jenkins

     

    If I were a professor and the West Virginia secondary was in my class, let's just say they would have to retake it next semester.

    They allowed 101 more passing yards than any other WVU secondary ever.

    Baylor receiver Terrance Williams went for 314 yards, almost 100 more than any other receiver against any WVU secondary ever.

    Florence had 581 yards passing and five touchdowns, including ones of 65, 67 and 37 yards and another 50-yard pass to Williams that somehow didn't go for a touchdown.

    It was an embarrassing performance, and if it wasn't for Smith, the Mountaineers would have been throttled on Saturday.

    The WVU secondary should be taking shifts this week shining Geno's shoes, doing his laundry, cleaning his apartment and cooking him meals.

    In between shifts, they should be in the weight room, on the practice field or in the film room.

    Since I'm a professor, they can take the week off of class to do all of this—don't tell the NCAA.

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